March 28, 2023

Asian American Press

MINNEAPOLIS (July 20, 2018) — Two projects in North Minneapolis received funding from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council earlier this year via the Community Arts grant program.

The Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota has received funding for its “Before We Remember (We Dream)” project that presents a series of interdisciplinary arts exhibitions featuring the work of Lao Minnesotans. The exhibitions will take place at the Lao Assistance Center’s lobby at the Harrison Recreation Center between May and December 2018.

The SEAD Project (Southeast Asian Diaspora Development) received funding for a convening of six performances and multiple workshops to collect and share missing stories of the Southeast Asian diaspora in Minnesota.

With over 300 individual community members visiting the Lao Assistance Center each month, Lao Assistance Center is working to expand its current level of services for at least 500 monthly visitors including students, artists and other community builders. The core theme of the Lao Assistance Center’s pilot project exhibition of “Before We Remember (We Dream)” was set by award-winning Lao Minnesotan writer Bryan Thao Worra, who felt that it is vital for Lao Minnesotan artists to explore their deeply imaginative side and recover a sense of their inner dreams and ambitions. Minnesota is home to the third largest population of Lao refugees in the country.

Celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, the mission of the Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota is to increase the capacity of the Lao-American population in Minnesota by responding to community identified needs with programs and services that promote the well-being of families and children. The primary thread of their programs is retaining the rich cultural heritage of the Lao community.

Five interconnected programs annually serve Lao families, including at-risk low and moderate income households. Its staff are nationally recognized in the work to address over 18,000 requests for assistance each year and for the preservation of Lao cultural principles of diversity, education, compassion, and peace.

“We are very excited to bring this project to our community to learn and to share with one another,” said Sunny Chanthanouvong, executive director of the Lao Assistance Center.

The SEAD Project is convening “Reclaiming Our Many Narratives” a year-long storytelling training series focused on preparing a showcase of Asian American stories in all of their diversity in the Twin Cities. The organization exists to bring forward Southeast Asian American narratives less heard in the community.

Nationally-acclaimed Asian American artists and writers will conduct workshops with participants and their families to teach key skills in creative non-fiction, storytelling, and performance. The artists anticipate in convening at least six public gatherings, writing circles and other social events along with online support and presentations to achieve this. Started in 2010, The SEAD Project is a creative social organization on a mission to be an accessible community hub that provides streamlined cross cultural workshops, exchanges and knowledge-sharing for Khmer, Hmong, Lao and Vietnamese diaspora communities. Through safe and welcoming spaces, the artists are working to empower and plant seeds of hope and possibility, both locally and globally. Since 2015, SEAD, under founding executive director Chanida Phaengdara Potter, has been a legally recognized 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis.

Among key artistic projects the SEAD project has organized has been their 2015 “Refuge of the InvisibLAO” traveling exhibit and the “Lao Diaspora Project,” using creative non-fiction, visual art and photojournalism to re-examine the journey of Lao refugees in Minnesota. In 2017 one of their leading projects was the “What Stinks: Fermented Fish and Feelings” creative healing workshop to introduce Southeast Asians, particularly Hmong, Cambodians, Thai, and Lao to art therapy techniques. Members of the SEAD project present regularly at academic and professional conferences nationally including the 2017 Southeast Asian American Studies Conference. They also established the long-running community journal Little Laos on the Prairie to provide community members a way to engage with social issues and the arts.

The Community Arts program provides grants of up to $5,000 in project support for groups wishing to offer quality arts activities in any discipline to communities within the seven-county metropolitan area of Minnesota. Grant requests may include costs for artists and other personnel, facility and/or equipment rental, postage, supplies, printing and other expenses necessary to carry out the project. These projects were funding during second round of MRAC’s FY 2018 Community Arts grant program. The organizations and projects chosen demonstrate both strong artistic quality and a connection to a community.

In November 2008, Minnesotans passed the clean water, land, and legacy amendment to the Minnesota Constitution.  As a result, over the next twenty-five years, three-eighths of one percent of the state’s sales tax are dedicated to various causes including 33 percent to a clean water fund, 33 percent to an outdoor heritage fund, 14.25 percent to a parks and trails fund and 19.75 percent to an arts and cultural heritage fund. Proceeds from the arts and cultural heritage fund “may be spent only on arts, arts education and arts access and to preserve Minnesota’s history and cultural heritage,” according to the amendement.

MRAC improves arts access for communities in the seven county metropolitan area through support to artists and organizations. The Metropolitan Regional Arts Council serves nonprofit arts organizations, informal arts groups, community education, and non-arts nonprofit organizations with annual operating expenses under $400,000, and individual artists in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. It is one of the 11 regional arts councils in Minnesota. The next deadlines for the Community Arts Program are Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 and Monday, Jan. 14, 2019.

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